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Copyrights and Embroidery

8th July 2008

Copyrights and Embroidery

Almost everyone who does embroidery for a living has probably encountered this situation at least once. A customer comes into your shop or places an order online and they want you to sew a Disney character or some other copyrighted logo onto their shirt. In this situation there are three options.

One: you bought a license for this particular material and so can legally use it.

Two: you do as the customer asks, knowing you don’t have legal right to use the design and hope no one finds out.

Three: You tell the customer you can’t legally embroider the design that is being asked for and stay on the right side of the law, but lose the sale and the potential income.

Copyright and ownership of designs can be a complex issue. It certainly isn’t something that can be covered in one blog post. Today I thought it would be useful to cover the basics of copyright, including what a copyright is and what it does and doesn’t cover. We can get more in depth about the subject in later posts.

A copyright is the exclusive right of the creator of a work to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute, perform, display, rent or sell their creations. Copyright generally rests with the original creator of the design or artwork, or with their employer, if the design was create while in the employ of someone else. The owner of a copyright can authorize others to reproduce the copyrighted designs. This is where licensing comes in. Companies like Disney can charge people a license fee. Payment of that fee grants the licensee right to embroider using copyrighted Disney designs. If you don’t pay the licensing fee, you can only embroider the designs for personal use. Putting a Disney character on your child’s t-shirt is acceptable. Embroidering 40 children’s t-shirts with a Disney character and selling them at a local craft fair is not. The latter activity is a violation of the Disney copyright.

When an embroiderer purchases designs, they are also purchasing the right to use those designs and to sell garments embroidered with those designs. The right, however, only extends to embroidering the designs. Copyright prohibits copying a design disc and selling those copies to other embroiderers. Essentially this is another form of licensing. Purchasing the designs gives you the right to use the designs and to sell what you make with those designs. Your purchase does not give you the right to copy the designs themselves and sell them to others.

When purchasing a design or a series of designs from a company it is always a good idea to do some research regarding the company’s copyright policy. Most companies will clearly spell out what their policy is and how the designs you purchase may be used. To avoid any trouble down the road, make sure you know what the copyright policy is before you make a purchase.

posted in Machine Embroidery Tips, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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